Short Stories Seminar

Around the World in Ten Tales

Level 1: Middle School Students

Level 2: High School Students

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Course Schedule:

Spring Qtr: Jan./Feb. - April | Summer Qtr: June/July - Aug.

Fall Qtr: Sept. - Nov. | Winter Qtr: Nov. - Jan.

Course Length: 10 hours 

Class Size: max 6 students

Course Overview

As a sister program of our Great Books Seminar, which focuses on longer works like novels and plays, this course aims to help students become independent thinkers and confident writers through arguably the more approachable literary genre of short story.

 

Short stories are concentrated miniatures of human experience. More than other genres, the short story is known for a strong degree of focus and unity to carry the reader from the opening lines to the ending. It proceeds with a clear goal at a particular speed: within only a few pages, a full universe is revealed. The short story is also celebrated for its aesthetic flexibility: whether moving in a traditional linear narrative or taking a more disjunctive shape, it is adept at catching the mood of the time and the place.
 

This course consists of ten seminars, each focusing on one gem selected from the greatest works of short literature. Students will be guided to read ten timeless short stories from across cultures and societies, appreciate the diversity and generality of human experience, and develop intercultural competency to engage productively in global communities. Students will also learn to exercise the brevity and flexibility characteristic of the short story form in their own writing. 

Reading and writing assignments are carefully designed based on individuals’ needs and interests. Class sizes are kept small to ensure students receive the individual attention they need to effectively elevate their reading writing abilities. 

Mentor #1: Dr. Kemick
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Dr. Kemick is an award-winning poet, journalist, and fiction writer. His new nonfiction book, I Am Herod, takes readers backstage and undercover at one of the world’s largest religious events. He is also the author of Caribou Run, a collection of poetry.

 

Dr. Kemick has published widely in all three genres, and his work has been included in anthologies in North America and Europe. He is the recipient of multiple awards including two National Magazine Awards.

Courses:

Personal Essay Writing Essentials | Cracking Shakespeare | Great Books Seminar | Short Stories Seminar | REvision Workshop

Ph.D. in Creative Writing
Award-winning poet, journalist, and fiction writer

Mentor #2: Dr. Prusko

Dr. Prusko is a university educator with over two decades’ experience teaching literature, writing, and communications courses. She is currently a lecturer in the Department of English and Film Studies at the University of Alberta. She is the recipient of a Faculty of Arts Teaching Award and the William Hardy Alexander Award for Excellence in Undergraduate Teaching. While teaching is her main focus, she also researches and publishes in the areas of Shakespeare, early modern drama, and children’s literature.

Courses:

Analytical Writing Essentials | When Technology Meets the Humanities | Cracking Shakespeare | Great Books Seminar | Short Stories Seminar | REvision Workshop

Ph.D. in English

Award-winning university educator

Shakespearean/early modern drama/children's literature scholar

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Sample Readings

Achebe, Chinua. "The Sacrificial Egg." 
Akutagawa, Ryunosuke. “In a Bamboo Grove.”
Atwood, Margaret. "Death by Landscape." 
Borges, Jorge Luis. "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote." 
Chekhov, Anton. "Gusev." 

Chopin, Kate. "The Story of an Hour."

Danticat, Edwidge. "A Wall of Fire Rising." 
Doerr, Anthony. “The River Nemunas.”
Hualing, Nieh. "The Several Blessings of Wang Ta-nien."
Jhabvala, Ruth Prawer "Passion." 
Joyce, James. "Araby." 
Kafka, Franz. "The Metamorphosis." 
King, Thomas. “Borders.”
Le Guin​, Ursula K. "The Ones Who Walk Away from Omelas." 
Garcia Marquez, Gabriel.  "The Handsomest Drowned Man in the World." 
MacLeod, Alistair. “The Boat.”
Mistry, Rohinton. “Swimming Lessons.”
Mukherjee, Bharati. "Management of Grief." 
Poe, Edgar Allan. "The Fall of the House of Usher." 
Schweblin, Samanta. “Toward Happy Civilization.”
Walker, Alice. “Everyday Use.”

Mentor #4: Mr. Donovan
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Mr. Donovan is an award-winning director, playwright, screenwriter, and actor. He has directed over 20 theatre and film productions and has acted professionally in a countless number of plays and films. His most recent work was directing the 2020 Citadel Theatre Young Company in an adaptation of The Wonderful World of Dissocia by Anthony Nielson that he adapted from the stageplay into a film production. Besides theatre and film, Mr. Donovan is passionate about teaching. He has been teaching online since the COVID-19 pandemic and works as a teacher in secondary schools. 

Courses:

Film Adaptation | Public Speaking Workshop | Short Stories Seminar 

M.F.A. in Theatre Directing; B.Ed Secondary in Social Studies and Drama
Award Winning Director, Playwright, and Actor

Mentor #3: Ms. Klippenstein

Ms. Klippenstein is an award-winning fiction writer whose stories have been published in magazines and anthologies across North America. Her fiction re-purposes elements from genres like sci-fi and fantasy to evoke her experience growing up as a mixed-race person in many different cities. She received an M.F.A. from Cornell University, where, as a lecturer, she also taught workshops and seminars on fiction, poetry, English literature, and essay writing. 

Courses:

Great Books Seminar | Short Stories Seminar | REvision Workshop

M.F.A. in Creative Writing (Fiction) & B.F.A. in Writing

Award-winning fiction writer, editor, and college teacher

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Homework & Feedback

The class will be structured around a close-reading of selected texts and a discussion of the complex questions they raise. The student will compose different writings that present a thoughtful, reflective exploration of each text for the instructor to critique. Upon completion of the course, each student will receive overall feedback from the instructor.

Testimonials

**Dr. Kemick**

"I've taken quite a few supplemental writing and reading classes in the past with different organizations, but the Great Books Seminar with Dr. Kemick at Polaris has by far been my favorite. The classes are structured in a way that allows for engaging discussions that explore the stylistic and thematic elements of English literature much deeper than in a typical high school English course. During class, Dr. Kemick will prompt students with tough, open-ended questions about significant excerpts of a written piece, ones that force them to analyze the passages in relation to the story as a whole, or even in a broader context. Additionally, classes are streamline and productive, but are also personalized as per student requests. For example, although the Great Books Seminar is heavily reading-focused, Dr. Kemick was willing to add in writing assignments and provide me with helpful feedback regarding my written analyses.

Since taking this course, I have seen clear improvement in my ability to comprehend and analyze texts for school, be it fiction or nonfiction. Great Books Seminar has also been one of the first English classes that has left me wanting to read more classic novels rather than turning away from them, which is an unexpected but pleasant surprise.

Last but certainly not least, this course is genuinely a lot of fun. Dr. Kemick always finds a way to incorporate entertaining activities into each session. Having the opportunity to get to know him better, I can attest that the hour of class time always goes by too fast.

I would wholeheartedly recommend Great Books Seminar to anyone looking to improve their reading, analyzing, and writing skills while expanding their knowledge of English literature. Plus, there is never a dull moment, I promise!"

"I enjoyed the much more in-depth and challenging discussion about the subjects. It was unbelievably helpful and really opened my eyes to what I could write. As for the instructor, I have never had an instructor or English teacher as compassionate, patient, knowledgeable, and articulate as Dr. Kemick. He has definitely played a big role in my writing journey, and has brought forth so many new ideas and thought processes to the table."

 

"I really liked how flexible it was and how the instructor would adjust the syllabus based on our personal needs and always asked for our opinions on homework assignments and reading material. The instructor’s greatest strengths were the questions he asked us during class to lead us into further understanding and interpreting a certain story or article, since it really forced us to think deeper and process what we were reading, and it also taught us that in the future, we can ask those questions to ourselves to help digest a piece of writing. I also particularly liked how he would give us very straight-to-the-point feedback, both good and bad, to help us realize our shortcomings and help us improve for next time."​

"I really enjoyed the deep and thoughtful conversations that we had on the different books.  This class really was an eye opener into the world of classical literature and I liked the variety of books that we were able to read and discuss.  Dr. Kemick is phenomenal at encouraging conversation and deep thinking."

**Dr. Prusko**

"Dr. Prusko is an incredible teacher and clearly knowledgeable and passionate about literature. Her class was challenging, but she provided constructive and helpful feedback and really encouraged us to do our best. She encouraged class discussions which were always interesting and helpful to the topic we were discussing.”

 

"I really enjoyed the engaging discussions we had, and the reading and writing assignments were interesting and thought-provoking. My writing greatly improved while taking this class due to the personalized feedback from Dr. Prusko and the creative writing prompts and activities."

“The writing methods she introduced have proven to be invaluable across a variety of subjects and situations; when my friends are struggling with their writing, I recommend the techniques I learned from Dr. Prusko. Her enthusiasm and skill are truly remarkable.”

“I absolutely loved this course. Dr. Prusko is an amazing teacher who really cares about her students and takes time to make sure they understand the material. She is always willing to help and provide constructive feedback and is great at promoting class community and discussion.”

**Ms. Klippenstein**

“I really enjoyed Ms. Klippenstein’s class and would definitely recommend other students to take it. The readings were interesting and stimulating. They included a variety of styles like science fiction and graphic novel, which helped tremendously in getting me to understand and analyze different types of literature.” 

“Fantastic course. The readings were intriguing and I read some things that I otherwise would have no opportunity to read at all. Through peer review and one-on-one conferences with the teacher, I became confident writing essays. I also felt encouraged to express my ideas in the seminar. I would recommend Ms. Klippenstein’s course to all my friends.” 

“The course was very interesting and the materials thought-provoking. Ms. Klippenstein was actively engaged during class discussion. I feel my own writing definitely improved, as I was forced out of my comfort zone to write in styles I wasn’t always familiar with. We had to think specifically about the audience of our writing.”

"I really loved how the course had both lectures and workshops. It was so informative and helpful reading other people’s stories and seeing how their creative minds worked. Ms. Klippenstein also ran her lectures a lot like a discussion section and it was such an open and friendly atmosphere!” 

“Ms. Klippenstein is absolutely amazing, one of my favorite teachers. She makes class interesting and pushes us to become better writers.”

"Ms. Klippenstein is an amazing teacher. The course material was super fun. Her comments on my paper were very constructive and helped me do better on the next ones." 

“Ms. Klippenstein did an excellent job making the course assignments manageable and interesting—I truly felt my time doing the work was well spent.” 

**Ms. Klippenstein**

“Wonderful course! I honestly have never found a writing-based course so interesting. My writing has improved primarily through my increased strength in analyzing texts. The wonderful class discussions gave me this skill. I loved how lively our discussions were; Ms.Klippenstein made them so interesting that everyone actually wanted to participate.” 

“I really enjoyed Ms. Klippenstein’s class and would definitely recommend other students to take it. The readings were interesting and stimulating. They included a variety of styles like science fiction and graphic novel, which helped tremendously in getting me to understand and analyze different types of literature.” 

“Fantastic course. The readings were intriguing and I read some things that I otherwise would have no opportunity to read at all. Through peer review and one-on-one conferences with the teacher, I became confident writing essays. I also felt encouraged to express my ideas in the seminar. I would recommend Ms. Klippenstein’s course to all my friends.” 

“The course was very interesting and the materials thought-provoking. Ms. Klippenstein was actively engaged during class discussion. I feel my own writing definitely improved, as I was forced out of my comfort zone to write in styles I wasn’t always familiar with. We had to think specifically about the audience of our writing.”

"I really loved how the course had both lectures and workshops. It was so informative and helpful reading other people’s stories and seeing how their creative minds worked. Ms. Klippenstein also ran her lectures a lot like a discussion section and it was such an open and friendly atmosphere!” 

“Ms. Klippenstein is absolutely amazing, one of my favorite teachers. She makes class interesting and pushes us to become better writers.”

"Ms. Klippenstein is an amazing teacher. The course material was super fun. Her comments on my paper were very constructive and helped me do better on the next ones." 

“I really enjoyed coming to class every time. I was hesitant to take a writing class at first, but after just a few classes, Ms. Klippenstein made me and the other students feel really comfortable."

“Ms. Klippenstein did an excellent job making the course assignments manageable and interesting—I truly felt my time doing the work was well spent.” 
 

 

**Mr. Donovan**

“Mr. Donovan was the greatest teacher I had. Not only did he give me opportunities to improve but he also understood me as a student. We’re all very thankful of him because he made class way more fun than my previous classes. He made me grow as a student.”

“Mr. Donovan is a wonderful and patient teacher. His teaching style is very enjoyable. He breaks down everything he teaches into basic terms so that students can understand it. He allows students to interact and demonstrate their understanding.”

“Mr. Donovan was an amazing teacher. He was very engaging, great energy, and gave us all the information we needed to succeed. Mr. Donovan was very organized each class and showed that he cared for each student. He came in everyday with the same energy as the first day, the only difference now is that the class is comfortable with him.”

“Mr. Donovan’s methods of teaching have made learning in class more engaging and clear. His feedback on our work is also very helpful. He tells us what we did wrong and needed to work on better for next time in a straightforward and friendly way.

“I love Mr. Donovan’s teaching style. I found it easier to understand and learn more efficiently. He has drastically changed my mindset in class and made my class experience more positive.”